Health Signs to Never Ignore in Dogs

Picture of a woman and her dog

As much as we love them and as much as we like to think that it’s true, pets can’t tell us what’s wrong with them — that’s why we have to pay attention to everything that seems to be different with Fido. Being a veterinarian can be truly challenging because one has to learn how to interpret the symptoms of possibly life-threatening conditions without receiving an anamnesis from the patient.

But being a vet is a luxury because as a medical professional, one has a myriad of supplies at their disposal, many of which could save a dog’s life. The same isn’t true for pet parents, and that’s why we have to be so mindful and keep track of some signs that can indicate a serious medical condition.

Common Health Signs that you Should Never Ignore in Dogs


While some might say that one vomit isn’t really a reason to start being concerned, many will agree that noticing that your dog throws up more than once in a day and vomits yellow or brown fluid and feeling lethargic is a sign that something is definitely wrong. Such types of vomit could be a sign of liver or kidney dysfunction, a gastrointestinal obstruction, pancreatitis, poisoning, electrolyte abnormalities, or even cancer.

Your dog could also want to vomit but be incapable of doing so, and that could be a serious emergency – bloat or volvulus.

Poop problems

Everyone (including humans) has a nasty case of diarrhea once in a while, but if you see that your dog has been having loose stools for more than three days, it’s pretty clear that something is wrong. Besides, diarrhea and vomiting are two of the main ways your canine friend can lose water and become dehydrated.

Especially in really young and old dogs, diarrhea can be life-threatening. When your canine buddy’s stools are black and tarry, he or she could be suffering from a stomach ulcer.

Heavy panting

Panting is completely natural if you were out in the park with your dog and he’s found a couple of friends like kids or other dogs that he had fun with, ran around, chased a toy or caught a stick. Spending time outside on a warm day can be another cause for panting, but heavy panting isn’t what you should see in any of these cases.

But what is heavy panting, anyway? It means that your dog is experiencing labored breathing where he tries to breathe more deeply than usual. This type of panting lasts considerably longer than the one that you can notice after playtime or a period of excitement.

Heavy panting can be a sign of Cushing’s disease, heatstroke, heart failure, pneumonia, lung tumors, or poisoning, and naturally, all of these are serious medical conditions. So, take your dog to the vet if you notice this symptom.


Drool is a package deal if you are the pet parent of a boxer, mastiff, bloodhound, or a Saint Bernard. But there’s a difference between physiological drooling and the one that shows up when your dog is not feeling alright.

For example, excessive drooling can be noticed if your dog is suffering from a heatstroke, if he or she has dental issues such as an abscess or periodontitis, or if your dog has eaten or chewed on something that has produced oral damage (whether the teeth or the gums were affected, drooling is a symptom). Your dog might have just as well eaten a toxic plant.

It’s true that drooling is a symptom of rabies, but it’s actually more correlated to the neurological manifestation of the disease. It can be an indication of many neurological issues, not just rabies.

Changes in odor

While some might argue that a change in your dog’s breath in terms of how it smells is not something alarming, there are some situations where it can be an indication that you need to take your dog to the vet. Sure, stinky breath is absolutely natural for dogs that have aged and those that have had dental disease.

But it can also be a sign of diabetes, kidney failure, as well as oral melanoma. Besides, if your dog starts stinking in general — and by that, we mean that his breath, his ears and skin, and his feces all smell bad, there could be a more serious issue that you need to address.

For example, stinky skin is associated with seborrhea, allergies, or various yeast or bacterial infections. Gastrointestinal disease is suspected if there is a significant change in your dog’s feces smell or if your dog has started to have a lot more (and foul-smelling) gas than usual.

Excessive water consumption

If you’ve noticed that your dog has started to drink a lot more water (and has started peeing a lot more or more often, too), you might have to take your pet to the vet and see whether he or she isn’t suffering from diabetes, hormonal issues, kidney failure, or in some cases, even liver problems.

Unresponsiveness or lethargy

Without a doubt, this is by far the most alarming sign that should tell you that you have to take your dog to the clinic as soon as possible. It it’s hot outside, it goes without saying that your dog can be lethargic on account of the heat, but if he’s just not in the mood for anything and that seems to have happened out of the blue, at least call your vet.

Your dog can have a fever, be anemic, or suffer from a variety of other problems. If your dog collapses, rush him to the veterinarian as soon as you can.

Eye problems

Many dogs suffer from conjunctivitis without us realizing that they do, but conjunctivitis isn’t the most severe eye problem that your dog can have. If you see that your dog’s eyes are red and that he or she is pawing at them or trying to scratch them constantly, that could be a sign that something more severe like a corneal scratch or ulcer has happened.

There are loads of other eye medical conditions from a detached retina to glaucoma that can all affect dogs, and many of them can leave your dog blind if you do not act quickly enough.

Is your dog behaving differently?

An uneasy dog is never a good sign, and any dog parent can tell you that a restless dog can make a caring human restless, too. If you notice that your canine companion has been behaving differently lately, such as exhibiting moodiness, hyperactivity, fearfulness, unprovoked aggression, anxiety, or submissiveness, something more serious might be going on than just a quirky mood.



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